But campaigns were tough and her husband wanted to cover more areas. Sheila Coronel, then a reporter for Manila Chronicle, related an incident, "Fariñas was impatient... ‘Faster Whitey!' he hollered at her, and shouting in Ilocano for everyone to hear, ‘Or else I'll dump you!'
The Ilocanos were impressed when they saw her, beautiful and all smiles for them. But whenever she was inside the vehicle, Maria sulked. She was suffering from scoliosis, with some bones in her spine pressing close to her heart. She got tired easily and had palpitations.
Troubled Maria. In 1996, a hand-written letter was addressed to then senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani. The senator was a known Fariñas supporter.
In the letter, Maria narrated that she wanted to leave the marriage because her husband had been beating her up. She said she was beaten black and blue and subjected to water torture. She requested that she be taken away from her husband. As a postscript, Maria had affixed her thumbmarks to assure the senator that the letter was not a hoax.
The media began to explore deeper into her troubles.
In a Probe interview in October 1996 Maria narrated: "At the start, there would be occasional slapping on the face, physical abuse, beatings. He will box you... all over. I was subjected to water torture. I had a gun at me in my mouth... a wet towel all over my face, pour [sic] Sprite, 7-Up or continuous water...
"I do not wish to embarrass him. I do not want humiliate him. I'm not out just for any money. I'm even willing to give up everything. I just want my freedom, and my independence. I want my annulment and I want what's due to me as my constitutional rights as a Filipino."
Long before 1996, Maria had cried out many times for help.
In a 1988 interview, she slipped a note to reporter Nini Valera that said: "Please help me, I am literally being tortured."
Valera was interviewing Maria in the Fariñas home. She noted that the husband was not far away in the same room, cleaning his gun. Near the end of the interview, when Fariñas left for a few minutes, Nini discovered that Maria had been dabbing powder to conceal cigarette burns on her chin.
In 1992, Maria got in touch with the Kalakasan hotline, an NGO for women in distress. Anna Leah Sarabia said, "Sa umpisa, saglit-saglit lang ‘yan. At saka walang pangalan. Umiiyak... Hindi naming alam kung sino..."
By 1995, Maria was able to identify herself. Sarabia said, "Pero tatawag siya, saglit-saglit lang, siguro one minute, two minutes. Tapos, Ibababa ‘yong phone. Kaso sabi niya, ‘They're watching me.' Tapos, ‘pag wala nang tao, tatawag uli."
Back in his arms. A week after her Probe interview, Maria went back to her husband. An article in Cosmopolitan magazine, "Cry for Help," said:
"With no money, no government protection, but only a baby begging to be delivered, Maria was left with no choice but to return to her husband. On October 15, she gave birth to her sixth child, a baby boy. It was also her birthday. She was 34."
She appeared on television, Magandang Gabi Bayan, with her husband beside her and she took back everything she had said against him. She told host Noli de Castro that she was just feeling insecure. "Baka dahil buntis po ako. Hindi ako maganda sa kanya. Puro motherhood, puro housewife na lang." The plump, matronly Maria was a far cry now from her beauty-queen days.